Improving shipment protocols for apples to Japan (AP07050)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The Tasmanian fruit industry was heavily reliant on export markets as production exceeded local domestic consumption. Tasmania's area-freedom from fruit fly also allowed it to access many international markets unavailable at the time to mainland Australia. In the years previous to this report being published, the Tasmanian industry had worked diligently to develop export market opportunities for the state and national industries both in pome fruit and also in stone fruit. Market access and market maintenance remained high priorities of the industry as reflected in the Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGT) Strategic Plan.
The Tasmanian fruit industry demonstrated a high degree of resilience in years previous to this report. Whilst there had been some rationalisation within the apple industry there had also been some substantial new plantings of pome fruit orchards, particularly with Royal Gala and "club" varieties such as Jazz TM. Investment in the industry was being driven by the knowledge that financial rewards could be gained by providing quality produce for the upper end of world markets.
Further factors driving investment in the state was its continued area-freedom from fruit fly and other commercial pests and diseases, as well as its relative abundance and availability of water in comparison to mainland fruit growing districts. Combined with long term climate change expectations and a progressive global demand for fresh fruit, the future for the Tasmanian industry looks strong and large commercial investors were already showing interest in developing large orchards within the state.
Tasmania was granted access to Japan for Red Fuji apples in 1998 with the first commercial shipments of Fuji occurring in 1999. The export program of Fuji variety apples continued until 2005 however quality issues in relation to the fumigation, amongst other issues, hampered the commercial success of the program. In 2005 the Tasmanian industry sought access for other varieties of apples into Japan. The application was successful and Tasmania was granted access to Japan for varieties other than Fuji in 2005.
In previous years the Tasmanian industry had been developing stronger commercial ties with Japan through activities such as a Ministerial Trade Missions (Sept 2006) and the hosting of numerous Japanese delegations from consumer groups, supermarket chains and independent wholesalers and retailers. Interestingly a meeting held with AEON supermarkets in September 2006 (one of the targets supermarket chains in Japan) highlighted the concern for sourcing food in the future in a country that produced less than 40 per cent of it own food requirements. Along with the sentiments at the time regarding global food shortages and with the populaces of China and India becoming more affluent there was considerable concern in Japan for future food supplies.
Subsequently, there had been several commercial enquiries in the last year from Japan for Tasmanian apple varieties, particularly Royal Gala. To date Tasmania had not conducted export scale commercial fumigation trials on apple varieties other than Fuji however research projects were undertaken using Royal Gala. Past research had also indicated that apples treated with Smartfresh ™ suffered less fumigation damage than apples not treated with Smartfresh ™. Due to the unknown extent of damage that fumigation may have caused on a commercial scale trial, or with other apple varieties, individual stakeholders had not been willing to undertake a commercial trial shipment. Fruit Growers Tasmania, recognising the importance of developing this market, therefore coordinated a joint collaborative between several apple producers/packers within the state to send a trial container of fumigated apples to Japan.
Whereas the previous shipments of Fuji apples were aimed at higher level domestic consumers this trial looked at dealing with a recognised supermarket chain that had less demanding quality requirements. It was hoped that aiming the fruit at this particular market segment would develop a more commercially realistic outcome. In collaboration with the supermarket they were also keen to try various apples to gauge consumer acceptance.
This project also provided an ideal opportunity to find a niche market for varieties such as Red Jonagold which struggled commercially on the domestic market. Other varieties to be included in the trial were Royal Gala, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious (blushed), Red Delicious and Pink Lady TM.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of Fruit Growers Tasmania Inc.
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